Cork City chairman Tom Coughlan was today banned from football-related activities for a year amid farcical scenes at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin today.
According to a statement issued by solicitors representing Mr Coughlan, the three-man disciplinary panel failed to turn up to the hearing at the agreed time.
The committee then held the meeting some time later in Mr Coughlan’s absence, where it was found that he brought the game into disrepute.
Mr Coughlan was fined €5,000, excluded from FAI Council membership, banned from representing Cork City FC and excluded from nomination to any FAI committee.
The ban is effective immediately. Mr Coughlan said he is to appeal the decision.
“We were consulted by Tom Coughlan, chairman of Cork City, in relation to his hearing at FAI Headquarters, Abbotstown, Dublin at 12pm today,” said a statement of James Riordan and Partners.
“Having confirmed our attendance, as requested by the FAI, we arrived with Tom Coughlan at 11.45am and were shown to a waiting room by Mr Vincent O’Flaherty FAI. At 12pm we were informed that the chairman of the hearing had been delayed for five minutes.”
“At 12.45pm, having had no further contact, we spoke with the receptionist and asked for Mr O’Flaherty but the receptionist was unable to locate him anywhere and accordingly, Mr Riordan gave the receptionist his mobile number and asked her to have Mr O’Flaherty contact him as soon as possible to reschedule the hearing.
“In the absence of anything further, Mr Coughlan and I then left the building to attend to other business.
“Approximately 15 minutes later Mr O’Flaherty telephoned me and referred the chairman of the committee on to me. I asked the chairman to reschedule the hearing as soon as possible. The chairman said that the meeting would proceed and he asked me to return with Mr Coughlan but I responded that I had other business to attend to and could not immediately return but that he (Mr Coughlan) was anxious to have the hearing re-scheduled quickly.
“The chairman refused to countenance this and said that the hearing would proceed immediately in our absence.”
“Mr Coughlan is now questioning this decision and has serious reservations about the FAI's attitude to him, based not alone on today's events, but also recent comments made in the national media by Fran Gavin FAI league director and FAI chief executive John Delaney.
“Mr Coughlan is extremely disappointed that he did not get his personal hearing, despite the fact that he was present at the correct time for the hearing.”
Commenting on the Independent Disciplinary Committee’s decision, director of the League of Ireland Fran Gavin said: “The majority of League of Ireland clubs operate as independent companies and their directors are responsible for ensuring that they are run in accordance with Irish company law.
“The FAI cannot dictate who owns clubs as this would conflict with company law and is purely a matter for the club or limited company.
“When Mr Coughlan was selected last year by the examiner to bring Cork City FC out of examinership, the move was welcomed. While we acknowledge that Mr Coughlan invested money in Cork City FC at that difficult time, his subsequent actions have damaged the credibility of both the club and the league.
“Although Mr Coughlan is presently owner and director of Cork City FC, we now call on him to consider his position in the interests of the fans and the players, as well as the long-term future of the club.”
Efforts to contact the FAI this evening were unsuccessful.